It’s a bit of old news at this point, but earlier in the week, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith confirmed that he is planning on retiring, quipping that he is 89 percent certain of it—a reference both to the fact that he had already planned to retire after last season, and, of course, to his jersey number.
The wide receiver position is perhaps one of the more difficult among the high-profile positions to crack the Hall of Fame, in no small part due to consideration of the logjam of talent that already exists. There is a line that seemingly goes out the back door in Canton of talented wide receivers waiting to get in.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers wider receiver Hines Ward is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame this year, but he didn’t even make the Finalist list this time around, to give some perspective. The bottom line is that there are few players at the position that you can guarantee will get in.
Smith is about as close as it comes, even if he never finished his career with the Super Bowl hardware. With 1031 career receptions for 14731 yards and 81 touchdowns, one can certainly make a good case for him.
While his touchdown total ranks only 26th in NFL history, he ranks seventh all time in receiving yards, and 12th in receptions. His numbers better Ward’s, and Smith’s career was more consistent from the beginning to the end, playing well and making cornerbacks and safeties look bad right through his final game.
He may well have had the biggest mouth in the entire game, but he had the skill to back it up—something that I consider a bit unfortunate, because, quite frankly, his attitude and the way that he talks to other people personally rubs me the wrong way.
But nobody can refuse his talent, which he certainly had in abundance. There were some lean years, particularly in the couple of years leading up to the Panthers’ drafting of Cam Newton, but he showed upon the young quarterback’s arrival that the only thing he had lost in his game was a decent arm to throw him the ball.
He even posted a 1000-yard season in year 14, his first with the Ravens in 2014, and was well on pace to do it again last year, which was to be his last, until he suffered an Achilles tear that ended his season. He was averaging nearly 100 yards per game in seven games, and he chose not to go out that way, coming back for one last season.
He nearly helped get the Ravens back to the playoffs, before the Steelers ended their season. This is no doubt still not the way he would have preferred to go out, but there is certainly nothing that he left out on the field over the course of his career—physically or verbally. I’m sure Mike Mitchell is shedding no tears in seeing him go.